Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China’s rule, the United States and Britain joined other democracies urging Beijing to honor its commitments to ensure autonomy and freedoms to the former British colony.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend events marking the anniversary in person. It would be the first time Xi has left mainland China since the coronavirus outbreak.
On Tuesday, the State Department issued a security alert urging U.S. citizens in Hong Kong to remain vigilant, exercise caution in the vicinity of large gatherings and avoid taking photographs of police without permission.
“President Xi Jinping is likely to visit Hong Kong June 30-July 1 for events marking the 25th handover anniversary and inauguration of the Chief Executive,” the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said in a Twitter Post. “Hong Kong Police Force may deploy 10,000+ police officers for security during the visit.”
G-7 calls on China to honor commitments
Leaders from G-7 countries pressed China to act in accordance with its obligations under a U.N. filed treaty, the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“We call on China to honor its commitments made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, which enshrine rights, freedoms and a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong,” said the G-7 Leaders’ Communique on Tuesday.
In Hong Kong, the police are tightening security, banning the use of drones across Hong Kong and implementing road closures.
Beijing has restricted rights of free speech and assembly in Hong Kong in recent years, say critics.
A sweeping national security law was imposed in the summer of 2020 to clamp down on dissent in Hong Kong following the massive, sometimes violent pro-democracy protests since 2019.
Earlier this year, a U.S. State Department report said the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) took new actions directly threatening U.S. interests in Hong Kong and eliminating the ability of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition to play a meaningful role. Those actions have breached PRC’s obligations under the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, which promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.
For its part, Chinese officials said Hong Kong is a domestic matter and the U.S. should not interfere.
"What the U.S. is really up to is to meddle in Hong Kong affairs and make Hong Kong a “bridgehead” for infiltration and interference against the mainland,” said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement earlier this month. Beijing has accused Washington of “attacking and smearing” the 2020 national security law.
According to Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department data, the number of U.S. companies with regional headquarters in Hong Kong has dropped to its lowest point in years.
The number of parent companies from three other G-7 countries (France, Germany, and Japan) with regional headquarters in Hong Kong also fell. Critics say this is an indication that Hong Kong’s appeal as a global financial center is eroding.
This week, in a joint communique, the G-7 leaders agreed to confront what they said is the PRC’s “non-transparent and market-distorting” practices.
Leaders call out China's economic behavior
A senior Biden administration official told reporters on Tuesday that this was “unprecedented” as leaders were “calling out China's economic behavior for the first time at the G-7 level.”
"With regard to China’s role in the global economy, we are continuing to consult on collective approaches, also beyond the G-7, to challenges posed by non-market policies and practices which distort the global economy," said G-7 leaders.